When Will A Veterinarian Order Blood Tests For Cats?
Sometimes in the case of an eye or ear infection, your feline friend's medical condition affords a veterinarian the opportunity for a relatively straightforward diagnosis. However, other times the results in the need for further examination. In such a case, your veterinarian will order feline blood tests to aid in his or her investigation. The following situations can result in the need for blood tests for cats:
- On the first veterinary visit: This is recommended to establish healthy baseline tests, and also check for any congenital abnormalities or potential concerns.
- During semi-annual wellness exams: This is recommended if your veterinarian suggests it as part of a thorough physical examination because cat blood work, along with other bodily fluids like urine, can help identify conditions the examination portion of a physical cannot.
- If a cat seems not quite right: Cat blood tests are suitable for cats that are not displaying any overt signs of illness, disease or injury but are acting abnormally.
- Pre-surgical tests: Cat bloodwork is used to determine the general health of the liver and kidneys, which helps a veterinarian select the safest form of anesthesia. Blood work can also help determine the surgical risk level in infirmed, elderly or injured patients.
- During senior wellness exams: Cat blood tests are usually recommended for mature, senior and geriatric cats as part of their periodic wellness exams. These are extremely beneficial, as we often see senior cats return to a more youthful state of being when blood tests identify an issue that can be easily treated.
At Standiford Veterinary Center, blood tests for cats are processed and analyzed on premises at our in-house laboratory. Having an on-site laboratory allows us to quickly and reliably determine and diagnose a health concern, and then implement a successful medical intervention based on the results. Certain samples must be sent to an off-site laboratory for analysis.
Types of Feline Blood Work
- Feline Leukemia-Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: This is a common test for kittens and cats, especially those coming from unknown origins. These viruses are interspecies contagious and life-threatening, so we recommend feline bloodwork to test for both if you adopt, find or take in a new kitten or cat.
- Complete Blood Count (CBC): We analyze cat bloodwork to assess features of the blood, including red and white cell count, immunity status, and the measure of hemoglobin, which is the actual substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen. We also examine hydration status, anemia, infection, blood clotting ability and immune system response. A CBC is essential for cats that have symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums or loss of appetite. A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other unseen abnormalities as part of a pre-surgery risk assessment.
- Blood Serum Chemistry: We analyze cat bloodwork to evaluate organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels and more. These tests are important to evaluating the health of older cats, cats with signs of vomiting, diarrhea or toxin exposure, as well as cats receiving long-term medications and general health before anesthesia.
- Total Thyroid Level: We analyze cat bloodwork for hyperthyroidism, as well as the reverse condition, euthyroidism, or a low thyroid function that can indicate disease in a cat’s body.
What Can Be Learned From Feline Blood Tests
The results of feline blood tests are essential to helping veterinarians diagnose and treat medical conditions both within the blood itself, as well as in organs such as kidney and liver. During a blood test for cats, various chemicals in the bloodstream are analyzed. Such as:
- Cat blood tests can indicate a deficiency in albumin levels, which indicates a possible liver issue because albumin is produced in the liver
- Blood tests for cats can detect abnormal hormonal-chemical responses to environmental and internal stimuli, which indicates a potential issue with the patient's endocrine system
Once we establish a correlation, we can order any subsequent feline blood work procedures necessary to arresting and treating the condition. In this way, feline blood tests serve as very valuable tools in a veterinarian's toolkit for helping to detect, identify, diagnose and ultimately treat illness or disease.
Understanding Your Cat's Bloodwork
After we process and analyze a cat bloodwork sample, the next step is to help our patient's human caretaker fully understand any abnormal results. Your cat's blood work allows our veterinarians to evaluate the following:
- Albumin (ALB): This is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage and intestinal, liver and kidney disease.
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALKP): Elevations in this test may indicate liver damage, Cushing’s disease or active bone growth in a young cat. This test is especially significant in cats.
- Alanine aminotransferase (ALT): This test may determine active liver damage, but does not indicate the cause.
- Amylase (AMYL): Elevations in this test indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease.
- Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): Increases in this test may indicate liver, heart or skeletal muscle damage.
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN): This test determines kidney function. An increased level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver and heart disease as well as urethral obstruction, shock or dehydration.
- Calcium (Ca): Changes in the normal level of this test can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium.
- Cholesterol (CHOL): This test is used to supplement diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease, and diabetes mellitus.
- Chloride (Cl): Chloride is an electrolyte that is typically lost with symptoms like vomiting or illnesses such as Addison’s disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration.
- Coristol (CORT): Cortisol is a hormone that is measured in tests for Cushing’s disease (the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) and Addison’s disease (ACTH stimulation test).
- Creatinine (CREA): This test reveals kidney function and helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN.
- Gamma-Glutamyl transferase (GGT): This is an enzyme that indicates liver disease or corticosteroid excess.
- Globulin (GLOB): This is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states.
- Glucose (GLU): Glucose is a measure of blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures or coma.
- Potassium (K): This is an electrolyte typically lost with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration or urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to cardiac arrest.
- Lipase (LIP): Lipase is an enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis.
- Sodium (Na): Sodium is an electrolyte often lost with signs vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease, and Addison’s disease. This test helps indicate hydration status.
- Phosphorus (PHOS): Elevations in this test are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and bleeding disorders.
- Total bilirubin (TBIL): Elevations in this test may indicate liver or hemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia.
- Total protein: This test indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys and infectious diseases.
- Thyroxine (T4): Thyroxine is a thyroid hormone. High levels indicate hyperthyroidism in cats.
The Role Of Cat Bloodwork In Diagnosis Of Disease
Cat bloodwork is an essential component in the diagnosis of disease. Just like any diagnostic tool, blood tests for cats are more effective when used as part of a diagnostic plan which may include other tests. For example, elevated BUN and creatinine levels can indicate a kidney problem. However, they can also indicate mild dehydration in the period leading up to the bloodwork. This is why ordering additional testing is necessary to obtain an accurate diagnosis.